New translation: What a mistake!

Fr. Lar O’Connor P.P. writes to the Irish Catholic about the coming missal translation,

I just cannot imagine how anyone in the English speaking world with a modicum of literary or sonant intelligence could accept it. It is latinized; It is abstract; it is impersonal; it is archaic; it is full of redundant and superfluous language. It will do nothing to bring a modern congregation to life.

And this:

If we make a comparison between the old and new we see in some texts how inadequate and awful the new is.

And this:

It [the new missal] is both retrograde and backward looking.

I’m starting to think Fr. O’Connor doesn’t like the new translation. Read his entire letter here.


  1. This is not what our bishops approved.

    Why should they accept it or impose it on their people?

    Why will the bishops not stand up for their own legal rights?

    They can accept the denial of the recognitio and continue with what we have, despite defects, and go to work on another translation to submit for a recognitio. It could even be based on making improvements of the “suggestions” of VC2010.

    Do the bishops not care about having their authority undermined? Do a majority of bishops expect further career advancement which requires pleasing the curial bureaucracy? Where is the motivation for such episcopal groveling instead of courage?

  2. Do the bishops not care about having their authority undermined? Do a majority of bishops expect further career advancement which requires pleasing the curial bureaucracy?
    You put your finger on it. An episcopal malaise is sweeping the Church. The bishops are stunned by criticism in so many areas resulting in their astounding and continuing loss of moral authority. They may feel incapable of gaging what the faithful’s reaction would be if they were to PUBLICLY upset Vox Clara’s applecart and all the carefully laid plans for smoothly implementing the missal, especially since the hierarchies have been silent so long now.

    Since the pope himself may have been sheltered from the fallout and hasn’t seen the final, final text himself, I would like to think most of the bishops are individually and quietly communicating to Pope Benedict the serious defects of the missal and are responding to the statements of disappointment with it in so many quarters, but that may be too much to hope for. It’s getting a bit in the game to speak out now without looking as though the English-speaking hierarchy are caving in to increasing public outrage and are finally forced to try to quell that criticism and dampen the anger in their dioceses.

  3. What the heck is “sonant intelligence”? I think if I were a regular PrayTell commenter I’d have to add something like “Such a howler!!!! Is the person who wrote this screed even a native speaking of English?!?!”

    1. No need to post, Marky Mark! It’s enough to know you’re a regular reader and that “you’ve got us under your skin.” That’s the real howler!

      Along with your “a native speaking of English”!

      Hahahaha! Did the Vox Clara gang take you on as an advisor?

  4. Intelligence about sound or how things should sound. It is not in the OED but it is a better innovation than “we acclaim” for “dicentes” in the Prefaces.

  5. The writer is Irish and comes from a literary tradition that produced Goldsmith, Yeats, Wilde, Beckett, Heaney, Synge and Shaw, to name but a few and not no mention the bardic poets who wrote in Irish itself. He is well aware that many people who will be subjected to the new translation will have their sense of the poetic battered by the clumsy, stulted, stumbling syntax and the best efforts of those presiding to translate such a text from the written medium to the oral.

    He is drawing attention to how a text sounds when it is spoken, an important consideration in a liturgical context where oral proclamation plays such a significant part.

    Your ad hominem remark detracts from your argument, such as it is.

    1. Your ad hominem remark detracts from your argument.

      As do everyone else’s! But it seems that ad hominem remarks about the men responsible for the coming translation are par for the course. Some here have had a field day with the name “Moroney”. But, I suppose, one wrong deserves another, or some justification like that.

  6. One major question for Father O’Connor is simply … where have you been for the past decade? Where is the body of your communications with the Irish and other English-speaking bishops? If you are truly concerned about a new translation why haven’t you spoken up until now? The text has been widely available for years. Do you really believe that your words at this late date have a positive impact on the Church — yours and mine? (Or should that be ‘mine and yours’? You seem to have strong feelings on the issue.)

    In his criticism Fr. O’Connor addresses the dialogue “The Lord be with you/And with your spirit”. He states that in Christ’s final words on the cross his reference to “my Spirit” means “myself”. Fine. But he doesn’t suggest we change the scriptural reference to “Into your hands I commend myself.” That would sound, well, silly. There is a specific usage for “spirit” that has its place in the people’s response. I rather like it.

    Like many before him Father criticizes the change to the words of Consecration, as though “for many” reduces the number to be saved. But in today’s Missal, although Christ spills His blood for all, it is only that sins “MAY” be forgiven. Not that they “are”, “have been” or “shall be”. Just that they “MAY”. In both cases the people have the right to refuse. Reverting to “many” simply puts it in our face. Ouch.

    Critics argue that the Bishops have failed in their responsibility to fight this “injustice”. Does it occur to anybody that perhaps the Bishops are reasonably satisfied? They’re not stomping their feet demanding to be heard but have prayerfully decided what to do.

    Let’s be obedient and give it a try. If we don’t like it, the work can be done once more. We’re not going anywhere until Christ returns, at which point it will be pretty much moot.

    1. John Kelleher, your criticism of Father Lar O’ Connor’s timing does not stand. With a reputed 10,000 changes made to the text which received the recognitio, it is hardly the same text as the text which you say has been around for years.

      Your erroneous theology that Christ ‘spills’ his blood, needs to be corrected. Jesus shed his blood, once, only once and once for all.

      You misunderstand the grammatical point at issue in the ‘ut’ clause in Latin. It is a final or purpose clause. It is not a statement that it may be the case that sins could be forgiven. Your interpretation of the clause is erroneous.

      It is most unlikely that bishops are reasonably satisfied, given that many of them are highly educated, having earned degrees in liturgy and sacred scripture. In the latter discipline a familiarity with poetics and literary criticism would convince anyone of how unlovely these translations are. Regrettably, Realpolitik has meant that the Roman curia is allowed to operate unchallenged.

      Finally, your exhortation to obedience makes it clear that you are confusing evangelical obedience with military obedience. It is part of the prophetic charism of the people of God to speak up and to speak out. The Holy Spirit was poured out on the bride of Christ at baptism. To remain silent would be to collude with the hijacking and repudiation by a Roman curial office of the glorious liberty of the children of God.

      1. You misunderstand the grammatical point at issue in the ‘ut’ clause in Latin. It is a final or purpose clause. It is not a statement that it may be the case that sins could be forgiven. Your interpretation of the clause is erroneous.

        I think the issue is how close the current English rendering (of the words over the wine) is to the Latin. The Latin reads “EFFUNDÉTUR IN REMISSIÓNEM PECCATÓRUM.” There is no “ut” clause here.

        effundetur = third person singular future passive = “it will be poured out”
        in = preposition of the accusative = “for” (popularly rendered as “unto”)
        remissionem = singular feminine accusative = “remission; forgiveness”
        peccatorum = plural neuter genitive = “of sins”

        The question is whether “It will be poured out for the remission of sins” and “It will be shed so that sins may be forgiven” mean precisely the same thing. Again, there is not subjunctive or ut-clause in the Latin.

  7. I think you are misreading the grammar of “may” in the words of consecration over the wine. It is not a restrictive but a purposive use, as the Latin in remissionem peccatorum (unto the forgiveness of sins) shows.

    Fr Lar may just be discovering the horrors of the new translation — many priests are still blissfully unaware of them. Note that priests have been given no more information on this than the laity have.

  8. “If we don’t like it the work can be done once more” — first, this does not lessen the tragedy of a blown opportunity; second, the work was done well in 1997 and dumped by the Vatican; third, if the new ghastliness were embraced obediently by the laity it would remain in force for decades, since bishops don’t want all that futile bother for a third time; fourthly, “if we don’t like it” is a consideration given no weight by the despotic bureaucratics in charge — even bishops and cardinals feel powerless about this, how much more the lower clergy and the laity.

  9. The whole thing is a mess! That’s what we have been saying in Providence for many months now….and hey, how about those Barton Easter Cards…big Christ Candle and the printed sentiment: Christ has died, Christ has Risen, Christ will come again. About to become a collector’s item as the unsinkable liturgy heads into the Atlantic to points unknown, but outcome certain!!

  10. Fr O’Connor seems to be objecting, not just to this translation, but really to the underlying principles that were laid out in Liturgiam Authenticam.

    Maybe LA is a big mistake, and needs to be revisited before it is used for translations in other languages.

    1. If he’s objecting to the 2008 text, then yes, he’s arguing against LA and the RT. But if he’s objecting to the 2010/2011 text, then it’s not necessarily an issue of LA or the RT, because many of the problems with the 2010/2011 text are violations of LA and the RT.

      1. He’s objecting to the 2010 text as far as I know, but his objections seem to also apply to the 2008 text, and, really, to any text that would follow (whether carefully or loosely) the principles of literal translation laid out in LA, don’t you think?

  11. Hey Janet, ever thought about puttin those babies up on eBay? And I’ve been meaning to tell you. Love that logo of yours! Your BF has to be the luckiest guy in RI!

    1. Good idea Jeremy! Actually my sacramentaries went
      the eBay route weeks ago, and judging from the
      way they went, guess not everybody’s dying to use
      the new missal.

      Speaking of Logos, that’s a mighty handsome double wide, and as for my boyfriend, we met years ago in Brighton, Massachusetts, when we were both in school. Its been an
      on again …off again thing, as younger temptations have come
      and gone, but now that we are both “of a certain age,” we are
      both in the “pink” so to speak. ;=).

  12. Fourth Sunday of Lent

    Deus, qui per Verbum tuum
    humáni géneris reconciliatiónem mirabíliter operáris,
    praesta, quaesumus,
    ut pópulus christiánus prompta devotióne et álacri fide
    ad ventúra sollémnia váleat festináre.

    ICEL 2008
    O God, who through your Word
    accomplished in a wonderful way
    the reconciliation of the human race,
    give the Christian people strength, we pray,
    to hasten with keen devotion and eager faith
    towards the solemn celebrations to come.

    Vox Clara 2010
    O God, who through your Word
    reconcile the human race to yourself in a wonderful way,
    grant, we pray,
    that with prompt devotion and eager faith
    the Christian people may hasten
    toward the solemn celebrations to come.

    Vox Clara (violating LA/RT, by the way) turns “reconciliationem” from a noun into a verb, clunking up the rhythm of the prayer in the process; and omits the Latin’s “valeat”, with the same clunky consequence.

    Prayer after Communion
    Deus, qui illúminas omnem hóminem veniéntem in hunc mundum, illúmina, quaesumus, corda nostra grátiae tuae splendóre,
    ut digna ac plácita maiestáti tuae cogitáre semper,
    et te sincére dilígere valeámus.

    ICEL 2008
    O God, who enlighten all who come into the world,
    enlighten our hearts, we pray,
    with the splendor of your grace,
    that we may always ponder
    what is worthy and pleasing to your majesty
    and offer you sincere love.

    Vox Clara 2010
    O God, who enlighten everyone who comes into this world,
    illuminate our hearts, we pray,
    with the splendor of your grace,
    that we may always ponder
    what is worthy and pleasing to your majesty
    and love you in all sincerity.

    If the Latin repeats the verb “illuminare,” might that not be intentional, for a reason? Shouldn’t it be repeated in the English, intentionally (LA and RT, anyone?). “Illuminate” – a ballpark, or a manuscript, maybe?

  13. If as much effort was put by all into living a holy life, instead of nit-picking over a translation of Holy Mass, then I am sure more good would be done. As St. Catherine (or was it St. Teresa?) said, if we were all we ought to be, we would set the world on fire. Me thinks this is concentrating on the wrong thing. Sadly.

    1. Living a holy life, by all means, Mr. Benson, by all means.

      But listen to Saint Thomas More (at least in Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons):

      “God made the angels to show Him splendor, as He made animals for innocence and plants for their simplicity. But Man He made to serve Him wittily, in the tangle of his mind.”

      It is part of holy living to serve Holy Church by offering her the best of our wits in the divine service (the liturgy) and in the loving service of our fellow men and women.

      Getting the words right is not nitpicking, Mr. Benson. Nor is abdicating that responsibility “holy living.”

      At least not since the Incarnation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *